A couple days ago, Kirk Henderson, a writer at Mavs Moneyball, and I decided to get together and do a small article interview in order to get to know the other team a bit better. It's always an entertaining experience speaking to somebody who enjoys the game as much as we do and has the chance to see the NBA world a bit differently than through the lens of the Memphis Grizzlies.
1. Alright, alright. I'll say what is on every Grizzlies' fan's mind: seeing OJ Mayo excel in a Mavericks jersey hurts me just a tiny bit. But I'm glad to see him do well. How has he been received by Dallas fans, and do you see him as a future franchise player?
Well in the absense of Dirk we've all been looking for a life raft to cling to and Mayo has become that life raft. Everyone loves him so far and, to play Devil's advocate a bit, I wonder if we've gone too far. His numbers through 25 games are fantastic and he's everything we could have hoped for any more. But I'm a bit reluctant to assign a title on him at this point. Though he's improved drastically from earlier in the season, he still has a lot of learning to do and I question what the ceiling is for a player his age. He's going to command a lot of money at season's end but how much remains an interesting question. I feel the market got a bit inflated this past off season with certain players (DeMar DeRozan for example) and I wonder what the Maverick front office will feel comfortable paying him. But for now, I'm just delighted to watch him grow as a player.
2. Dirk's absence has done a great job on keeping the Mavs out of the conversation this season. How's he looking for his return? Whenever he does return, will he rattle the standings as much as Dallas fans seem to think he will?
He apparently hopes to return after Christmas, but who really knows. He says he lost a lot of strength in his leg and is probably worried about coming back before he's ready. With Dallas entering a ridiculous stretch of the schedule, the Mavs face the real probability of being 5-7 games under .500 by the new year.
As to his return and its effect on the standings, well, he helps with one of two Dallas problems: he cuts down on turnovers. What he doesn't help with (or doesn't help to the degree that Dallas needs help) is rebounding. Dirk has always been a decent rebounder, but these past few years with Kidd, Tyson Chandler, and Marion, he hasn't needed to. Dirk's partner in the front court is Chris Kaman, and his rebounding rate is at a career low. Dirk will bring the Mavs back into the conversation, but I still think they just barely miss the playoffs.
3. Shawn Marion: is his career done, or does he really have a second wind in him? Do you think he can compete tonight against the Memphis bigs?
This is a great question, because it goes to show just how under the radar Marion is. Take a a look at his box score from Tuesday night, 14-9 with 2 steals. Nothing outstanding, but he contributes so much without needing to dominate the ball. When he left Phoenix for Miami he struggled to adapt his game, but during his time in Dallas he's become the ultimate role player. When he signed his contract I would have laughed had you told me he'd still be as useful as he is right now. His numbers while in Dallas have basically remained unchanged. He's the glue that holds Dallas together.
As to how he matches up with your bigs... probably not. Marion's defensive quickness has eroded so he's often in that no man's land between being unable to guard small forwards with consistency but also being a bit too small for power forwards. Depending on who is healthy for Dallas I actually expect him to match up with Rudy Gay more than I do Z-Bo or Gasol. His real value on defense lies in his ability to help and anticipate. Over all you probably won't notice Marion much, but then at the end of the game, win or lose, you'll see in the box score and little plays here and there how much he means to Dallas.
4. Are the Mavs going to be involved in any headline trades this season?
Hard to say. The Dallas front office is, in my opinion, the best in the league about keeping news in house. The media never finds out anything they aren't meant to know, even if it comes from "sources". But aside from that, Dallas just doesn't have the assets to trade away and they really want to approach this off season with as much cap room as possible, as Dirk and Marion are the only players under contract next year. Maybe Dallas can get someone to give Roddy B another look, but the contract amounts for so many of Dallas' fringe players are so low that it makes it hard to see anything happening.
5. Fill in the blank: The Grizzlies will win tonight if they _______________.
Punish Dallas on the offensive glass and force turnovers. The Mavericks seem to give up offensive boards and turn the ball over in droves. In a loss to the Bobcats this year, Dallas gave up 12 offensive boards in the fourth quarter and overtime alone. In a loss to Philly last month, they turned the ball over on six straight possessions. The Grizz should also win if they move the ball a lot. Dallas is still learning defense, with the addition of so many new players. I'd like to see Dallas win, but at this point in the season, Memphis is simply a better team.